Type 1 Diabetes And Exercise

Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise go hand in hand. Here we explain many of the things that you need to consider if your child has Type 1 Diabetes and how to manage exercise. Including precautions you should take and the best practice guidelines.

Exercise is something that everyone should do, regardless of weather they have Type 1 Diabetes or not. It helps to keep us healthy. Type 1 Diabetes is not related to an unhealthy lifestyle, but we want our children to live long and healthy lives and exercise plays it’s part in that. We all know what the complications of Type 1 can be including heart problems so it’s very important to keep that heart as healthy as possible.

Unfortunately like many things in the lives of the those living with Type 1, exercise just isn’t that simple and it takes planning and precautions to prevent hypo’s.

When people with Type 1 Diabetes exercise it’s very common for their blood glucose levels to drop, though that isn’t always the case, some people report their blood sugar levels rising. Therefore it’s important to take precautions to manage your child’s blood glucose levels as well as possible when they are exercising.


First of all if there is any chance your child may be taking part in exercise ensure they have plenty of hypo treatments to hand, things like glucose tablets are great as they can be eaten quickly and you don’t need many, or a bottle of Lucozade, though it can be tricky to gauge how much of it to drink.

Plan ahead when you can, for those children that use an Insulin Pump it may be worth setting a temporary basal rate just before and during exercise to help prevent the drop. This may take some trial and error.

The easiest way to prevent a hypo during exercise is to consume carbs prior to exercising. This is often more reliable than temporary basal rate. There is a rule of thumb as to how many carbs should be consumed for each 30 minute session of exercise. Your dietitian should be able to give you guidance on this.

During exercise it’s important to check your child’s blood glucose levels regularly. For example a child playing football, should test before the match, at half time and also at the end of the game. It may be necessary to give more carbs at half time and after the match.

If your child is competing in a team sport ensure that there is a signal that they can give to a responsible adult to let them know if they feel low.

Some exercise may take more carbs than others, for example when my son takes part if cross country he runs with a bottle of Lucozade and has a few mouthfuls every now and again. Again unfortunately it’s trial and error.

Keep a close eye on your child in the hours following exercise as it’s common for their to be delayed hypos after exercise, sometimes many hours later. On these nights if you don’t routinely do it anyway it is worth carrying out blood glucose tests during the night to ensure they haven’t dropped low in their sleep. Many children do not feel low blood sugar levels whilst asleep. It may be that if your child is on a pump you might need to set a temporary basal rate for a few hours after exercise too, again you will only learn if this is necessary from experience.

Whilst exercise is a great way to bring blood glucose levels down if they are a little to high it can be highly dangerous to exercise with dangerously high levels. Some hospitals recommend no exercise at all if blood glucose levels are above 14, however our team recommend testing for ketones if blood glucose levels are over 14 and if not ketones are present they are fine to exercise. Though if ketones are present they must not exercise. Therefore before your child starts exercise as well as a blood glucose test, if their levels are above 14 mmol ensure you carry out a blood ketone test.

Like I said at the start Type 1 Diabetes and exercise it’s not simple, and their are precautions that need to be taken but by taking these precautions and through experience there is nothing to stop a child with Type 1 Diabetes enjoying sport and exercise on a regular basis and it should be encouraged.

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